While tourism is sometimes blamed for contributing to beach pollution, some holidaymakers are turning the tide: They’re picking up the litter with Trash Bags on Tour, a new kind of day tour in Australia that mixes leisure with environmental protection. This tour gets guests removing rubbish on otherwise beautiful beaches — with breaks for fun activities, such as looking for koalas in a gum tree forest or tasting chocolate, beer or cider.
Tour co-directors Kathryn Farrell and Melissa Tuliranta came up with the idea after discovering that they each enjoyed volunteering on weekends as members of a Facebook group called Trash Bags. This spinoff from a weekend hobby successfully launched in mid-2018, with the support of Autopia Tours, a tour company that Kathryn and Melissa work for. For Kathryn, she gets a buzz from the enjoyment and satisfaction that guests experience. “As soon as they start picking up rubbish, they see how much the work is needed, and then they get to really enjoy the destination,” she says. The first tours have been hosted on the Great Ocean Road, in the You Yangs Regional Park and on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, as well as in Port Stephens in New South Wales (two and a half hours from Sydney by car).
Usually, the work comes first, creating a social icebreaker that gets everybody talking. Wearing protective gloves, the visitors collect waste and then sort it into categories: recyclable bottles, plastic straws, cigarette butts and more. The guides later upload this information to a marine debris database that is monitored by scientists and policymakers. A portion of ticket prices goes toward offsetting the carbon footprint of bus travel on the tour, increasing the feel-good factor. The funds go to Greenfleet, a charity that plants trees and restores forests in Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne resident Sandy Hale has been on three tours. “You’re spending your time in a really positive way, leaving [places] better than [they were] when you arrived,” she says.
Two more beachgoers’ initiatives
Take3, Sydney.We can all help combat the flood of waste threatening our planet. That’s the philosophy of another Australian eco initiative, the educational charity Take 3. Founded by an environmentalist, marine ecologist and youth educator, on the Central Coast of NSW (1.5 hours north of Sydney), the initiative has a simple message: Each time you’re in an outdoor space — such as a beach or a park — pick up at least three pieces of rubbish and dispose of them properly. To encourage others to join the movement, simply post a picture on social media — there are now Instagram posts hashtagged #Take3fortheSea from nearly 130 nations. take3.org
#TrashTag Challenge, Worldwide. A viral social media challenge is prompting people around the world to post before/after photos of their clean-up activities on beaches, roadsides and parks. Follow the hashtag on reddit, Facebook and Instagram.
This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of Smile magazine.